Focus on Extortion

By Mike / On / In Technology

If we’re going to be successful in defending our industry from extortionists, we need to focus on extortion. If we spend our energy bickering with each other over our personal agendas, we will fail.

Apple is not a patent troll. Neither is Microsoft. Neither is PixFusion. Patent trolls, by definition, produce nothing but lawsuits. Using the legalized monopoly power of a patent against competitors is how the system is designed to work. Whether that system should exist at all is a separate issue. Whether this company or that company is being a dick is a separate issue.

We are going after one type of behavior: obtaining patents for the sole purpose of extracting licensing fees. That this is a burden to all technologists is something we should all be able to agree on, and is therefore something that we should all be able to work together to change.

If we start equating Apple to Intellectual Ventures, or if we try to eliminate software patents entirely, we are going to find ourselves up against the platform vendors, and we are going to lose. Save those battles for another day.

Be the Anthill

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

We’ve been mum since announcing the Appsterdam Legal Defense Initiative, busy organizing things behind the scenes. We’re now ready to start signing people up and accepting donations, which you can help us with by visiting the official Operation Anthill web site. You can connect to Operation Anthill on Facebook and Twitter, hashtag #anthill.

We’re organizing a legal summit in Appsterdam somewhere between October 3-15. We’re thinking 2 days, with a day of presentations and a day of workshops. I’m letting you know now so you can start clearing your schedule. I’ll give you the exact dates as soon as possible, so you can book travel.

Whether you’re being extorted with patents now, or are afraid for the future, this will be your chance to get the legal advice you need to protect your business.

For press or other inquiries, email

Method and Apparatus for Kicking Ass

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

The past few weeks have been very dark indeed. Rovio and others targeted by new lawsuits, Craig Hockenberry predicting doom, and Matt Gemmell’s morale falling like Stonewall Jackson. The only thing keeping me from joining my colleagues in abject depression is working for an 11th hour rally.

Rally time starts now.

Intellectual Ventures and their ilk are many tentacled beasts who use thousands of shell companies to do their dirty work. When they send blood-sucking tentacles like Lodsys into our community, we need to cut them off.

Eventually the head will figure out to stop losing tentacles. Eventually the patent trolls will learn to avoid indies the way dogs in East Texas learn to avoid anthills.

Of course patent trolls are more likely to be from California than from Texas, so they might not know about the anthills. I actually spent part of my childhood in Texas, and learned the hard way that if you step on an anthill you’ll soon be covered in swarming, biting ants. You could, in theory, crush them one by one, but it’s much easier to just avoid anthills.

Let App Makers be as the ants of East Texas, minding their business until someone invades their anthill. Then Swarm! Swarm! Swarm! We will let the patent trolls know: if you attack one indie, you attack all indies, and we will file every motion we can against you, we will attack your patents, and we will show you for the mafioso thugs you are.

Our general in this fight is Michael McCoy, a Longhorn Texas technology attorney who is also conveniently licensed in California. We’ve been meeting in Amsterdam to hammer out a strategy and form a plan for immediate action.

When he returns to work next week, Michael will assemble and lead the Appsterdam Legal Defense Team, establish the Appsterdam Legal Defense Fund, and start implementing our strategy, codenamed Operation Anthill.

Legal action and education will be the start. We will also consider other ways of protecting ourselves, such as pushing for legislative reform. Of course, our enemies are both wealthier and better connected than we are, so will have to take our story to the people, let the public know that small businesses, jobs, and the economy are being threatened by parasites—and pray that democracy can still prevail.

We must move the fight away from the story that has been conceived by our enemies. This isn’t a patent infringement issue. There’s nothing most of the affected App Makers could have done to avoid being targeted. This is extortion, plain and simple, with the familiar twist of misappropriating the law to harass the very innovators patents are meant to protect.

NPR primed the pump of public awareness with the latest episode of This American Life, “When Patents Attack!” Ready or not, the time to act is now. I propose a tongue-in-check brown ribbon campaign to raise awareness. Brown? Obviously.

Software patents are bullshit.

Steve “Scottie” Scott and John Fox of iDTV recorded an interview with Michael McCoy and me, Mike Lee. (8:15 audio file, MP3 format). If you are a member of the media and would like a high quality copy for your broadcast, or would like to schedule an interview, please contact bmf at

Appsterdam Legal Defense Initiative home page:

For press or other inquiries, email

Rotten to the Core

By Mike / On / In Technology

Much has been made of Lodsys, and we have heaped scorn upon them. But Lodsys is nothing but a container for scorn, a shield in East Texas, one shell in a game of shells designed to distract us from the real villain—Silicon Valley itself.

At the core of a network of thousands of patent trolls lies the biggest troll of all, a protection racket called Intellectual Ventures. If you’d like to know more about Intellectual Ventures and their relationship with Lodsys and other trolls, I recommend the latest edition of This American Life, who did a story on the subject.

The story was familiar, but the conclusion was novel—Intellectual Ventures is a Silicon Valley startup, funded by venture capitalists who are expecting massive returns, which are only possible by squeezing as many revenue streams as possible.

One thing you have to know about the Valley is that, underneath its non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements, it is completely incestuous. The same investors, the same funds, the same companies come up with their finger in the same pies again and again and again.

That means that when IV and their horde of hypodermic parasites land on other Valley companies, the licensing fees are just moving money around between the same people. The only real revenue is from Valley outsiders—indies and foreigners. You know, the ones they laugh at.

When you follow the money all the way through the complex tunnels of financial and legal confusion, you end up at the Valley itself. This whole patent war is really just a huge anti-competitive play that the Valley has made, intentionally or not, to screw the rest of the technology world.

A Silicon Valley refugee such as myself, who has fled to a jurisdiction with a saner patent system, finds himself stuck, because all the serious platforms are based in or around the Valley.

Even if a European company makes apps to sell in Europe, they still have to go through a Valley company, making them potential victims of this whole scam. The EU is going to need to step in to protect its technologists from this American madness.

There is also an opportunity here. I’ve said before that this nonsense is going to leave the US a third-world pariah in technology. Right now the calculus must be that even if they lose the App Makers to broken healthcare and immigration systems, they still control the platforms.

But for how long? Because right now the US patent system is every app platform’s major weakness. If someone were to exploit that by making a decent platform out of reach of American attorneys, I and most other developers would flock there.

Indeed, we might have no other choice.

Taking a Stand

By Mike / On / In Technology

News from the front has not been promising. Tech blogs read like Tolkien short stories. Our colleagues are being overrun by patent trolls. Widget Press is about to fall, and Iconfactory may be next.

None of us are ready to take up this fight, but if we don’t bring the fight to them, they’re going to bring the fight to us.

At this point we have two options. We continue business as usual, going along our separate paths, spending each day praying we are not the next to fall. Or we stand together, here and now, and fight back.

Abandon the notion that lawyers are our enemies. There are many lawyers who would like to help stop this misuse of patent law. I know because when lawyers and others want to help App Makers, they contact the Appsterdam movement.

Our goal is to serve the interests of App Makers all over the world, and there is no greater interest than fighting the destruction of our industry, our businesses, and our way of life.

Let this be our rallying cry. We’re starting by putting the call out for attorneys and patent experts who would like to help assemble a legal team: email bmf at

In a few weeks, we’ll set up a legal defense fund to fuel that team. Then we will formulate and implement a strategy to fight these bastards.

Together, we will get the message across: If you come after indies, we will come after you. They can afford to fight, but we cannot afford to lose.